Monster Republic, by Ben Horton
Monster Republic by Ben Horton is the first book in a new science-fiction/techno-thriller action series for young adults. Full of explosions, weaponry, gadgets, battles, fury and outsider kids fighting to save the world, Monster Republic is bound to be a big hit in the difficult Boys 12+ market and in particular with fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series and Charlie Higson’s Young Bond books.
At the beginning of Monster Republic, Cameron Reilly was one of those kids whose school years actually were the best times of their life; popular, handsome, captain of the football team and dating the prettiest girl in the school, Cameron had everything going for him. He was also a good guy and it was this laudable characteristic that was to ultimately land him in a whole heap of trouble. During a school trip to the Broad Harbour Nuclear Power Plant, Cameron spots school bully Carl tormenting a younger child and rushes forward to help, unwittingly placing himself directly in the path of a devastating explosion that suddenly rips through that area of the Plant.
The next thing Cameron knows, he is strapped to an operating table and is rapidly regaining consciousness in a peculiar laboratory as famous scientist and Broad Harbour celebrity Dr Lazarus Fry discusses his condition. While Cameron has no idea what has happened to him, he knows instinctively that something is horrendously wrong. Once Dr Fry has left the room, a strange girl named Rora arrives and tells Cameron that she is there to rescue him. As the straps that held him to the table are undone, Cameron is able to catch a glimpse of his reflection on a glass panel in the laboratory:
“No,” whispered Cameron to the monster in the glass. And he watched it shaking its hideous head. “That’s not me. You’re not me.”
As the two of them make their escape from Dr Fry and his Bloodhound minions, Rora explains that Dr Fry is no ordinary scientist, that he is a power-mad fiend who is building an army of monsters to help him take over the world. Cameron was killed in the explosion but was rebuilt by Dr Fry using scavenged body parts, bionic implants and high-spec computer technology. While Dr Fry’s successful creations, monsters like Cameron, are trained to use their special powers and abilities to aide Fry’s schemes, his unsuccessful experiments, the Rejects, are banished to the sewers and left to die. Rora is one of these Rejects and she has come for Cameron so that he might join their Monster Republic and use his newfound powers to bring about the downfall of Dr Fry.
Monster Republic is a fast-paced and exciting novel. Ben Horton has succeeded in creating a highly original alternative reality populated by blissfully ignorant “average” folks above ground and below ground by an intriguing ensemble cast that the book blurb accurately describes as a “blend of X-Men meets Terminator”. Life for the Rejects is unsurprisingly brutal, all the more so since their mutations and alterations were deliberately caused by the evil scientist who would ultimately abandon them. The idea of a community of misfits banding together to tackle the forces of darkness may not be new exactly but Horton has certainly taken the concept and made it his own. The characters are sympathetic and the situations intense and believable. Novel touches such as Cameron being patched-up using “parts” salvaged from his deceased school chums and the Marie/Carl amalgamation ensure that Monster Republic has a lot more depth and pathos than the average monster mash yarn. Ending on a cliff-hanger that is sure to leave readers desperate to read more, Monster Republic is a great start to what is sure to be a popular series.